Nearly all states now have laws prohibiting school bullying, but just 16 offer specific protections for those with disabilities.
An analysis of laws from across the nation released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that just one classification — race — is more likely than disability to be highlighted in state anti-bullying efforts.
Currently, 46 states have anti-bullying laws on the books designed to protect children in the classroom. In recent years there have been significant efforts to add or improve such policies amid a number of high profile cases of young people taking their own lives after being targeted. Last year alone, the Education Department report indicates that there were 21 bills enacted or amended to address school bullying.
“Every state should have effective bullying prevention efforts in place to protect children inside and outside of school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This report reveals that while most states have enacted legislation around this important issue, a great deal of work remains to ensure adults are doing everything possible to keep our kids safe.”
While statistics vary, research suggests that children with disabilities are at higher risk of bullying than their typically developing peers. Currently, there is no legislation at the federal level to address school bullying, but discrimination against individuals with disabilities is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
In addition to disability and race, many states also include protections in their anti-bullying laws based on religion and gender.